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On October 22, 2001, approximately 1400 central daylight time, an Air Tractor AT-301 agricultural airplane, N4395S, struck the terrain following a loss of control while maneuvering near Morton, Texas. The airplane was owned and operated by G.B. Aerial Applicators, Inc., at Plains, Texas, under 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137. The commercial pilot received fatal injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postimpact fire. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the aerial application flight, and a flight plan was not filed. The local flight departed the Cochran County Airport, Morton, Texas, approximately 20 minutes prior to the accident.
One witness, located in the field adjacent to the accident site, reported to the FAA inspector, who responded to the accident site, that the airplane made two passes over the cotton field, and during the subsequent turn-around maneuver, at approximately 400 feet agl, the airplane "made a hard right turn near vertical, banked hard left turn, going down, hit the ground, and caught fire." This witness reported the wind from the southwest at 10-15 knots.
In a written statement, one witness, reported that the airplane "came out of the field and made a hard right turn (to north) and then back to the left headed west in a circle motion back to the east." This witness described the initial pull up as "nearly a wing vertical turn." According to this witness, the wind was from the west-southwest at 15-25 knots and gusty.
The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with airplane multiengine land, single-engine land, and instrument ratings. Additionally, he held a flight instructor certificate with airplane single-engine land and multiengine land ratings. The pilot held a mechanic certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings. On February 21, 2001, the pilot was issued a second class medical certificate with the limitation "must wear corrective lenses." On the medical application the pilot reported that his accumulated flight time was 11,000 hours.
The FAA records and the available airplane records indicated that on June 20, 1980, the FAA special airworthiness certificate (restricted for agricultural and pest control) was issued for the Air Tractor 301 airplane, serial number 301-0055. The current owner's aircraft registration application was dated August 13, 2001, with the final registration pending at the time of the accident.
The propeller was removed, disassembled, reassemble, painted, and reinstalled on February 10, 1999. On September 25, 2000, a major overhaul (MOH) was performed on the engine at accumulated engine time of 8,154 hours. The last annual inspection was performed on May 20, 2001, at accumulated airframe time of 5,315.7 hours, and engine time of 955.6 hours since major overhaul (SMOH).
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The FAA inspector and the manufacturer's representative, who responded to the site, found the airplane resting inverted in a burned grassy area adjacent to the cotton field, approximately 4 miles west of Morton, Texas. The structural integrity of the cockpit was intact; however, there was thermal destruction of the cockpit instruments, components, and seat. The initial ground scar exhibited slash marks consistent with propeller strikes. The propeller remained attracted to the engine. One propeller blade exhibited torsional twisting and bending, and the other propeller blade exhibited "S" bending. The FAA inspector and the manufacturer's representative found no mechanical discrepancies that would have precluded operational control of the aircraft prior to the impact.
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed on the pilot by the Chief Medical Examiner at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center, Division of Forensic Pathology, Lubbock, Texas. There was no evidence found of any pre-existing conditions that would have contributed to the accident. The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) Forensic Toxicological and Accident Research Center at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, examined the specimens taken by the medical examiner. According to CAMI, the pilot's toxicological testing showed no indication of alcohol or performance-impairing drugs at the time of the accident. The toxicological testing indicated non-quantified amounts of Ranitidine detected in the blood and urine.
Fire damage was consistent with a fuel-fed fire erupting on impact.
The airplane was released to the owner's representative.